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Quality Assurance as a regional priority

Since then the CARICOM Secretariat has given full support to this initiative - from developing draft legislation to providing technical assistance to new and emerging external quality assurance agencies (EQAAs). During the period 2004 to 2014, ten CARICOM territories enacted legislation for the establishment of EQAAs.

The following have been established:

•  Antigua and Barbuda National Accreditation Board

•  Barbados Accreditation Council

•  National Accreditation Board of the Commonwealth of Dominica

•  National Accreditation Board of Grenada

•  National Accreditation Council of Guyana

•  National Accreditation Board of St. Vincent and the Grenadines

•  Nationaal Orgaan voor Accreditatie (NOVA) Suriname

•  Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago

While legislation was passed in Belize and the Bahamas, the agencies have not yet been established. Also in Montserrat, legislation was passed in 2007 establishing the Higher Education Advisory Board. While the Board grants licenses for institutions to operate at the tertiary level and is also empowered to accredit tertiary institutions, it is not a full-fledged EQAA.

It must be noted also that the University Council of Jamaica (established in 1987) and the St. Kitts and Nevis Accreditation Board (established in 1999) pre-dated the CARICOM-led initiative. Consequently, there are ten national EQAAs that are currently operating within CARICOM. There are also three (3) regional bodies for specialised accreditation in the fields of medicine and other health professions and engineering.

They are the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAMHP); the Caribbean Accreditation Council for Engineering and Technology (CACET) and the Greater Caribbean Regional Engineering Accreditation System (GCREAS).

The strides made in the region with regard to external quality assurance of tertiary education are commendable.

At the 11th Annual CANQATE conference in November last year, several national EQAAs signed a Memorandum of Understanding, now referred to as the Belize Accord. The signatory agencies agreed inter alia to promote inter-agency cooperation and collaboration, work towards mutual recognition and facilitate the free movement of skills within CARICOM. CANQATE is committed to supporting the work of the EQAAs and also to working with the CARICOM Secretariat to develop a regional mechanism for the recognition of EQAAs that will provide the assurance of quality, transparency and accountability for the operations of national and regional agencies in CARICOM. We hope that this will be accomplished in the not too distant future.